reviewed by Kevin Hopps

Made up of present day and former LACC students, this cast of five, part of the Indomitus Theatre Company, directed with precision by Alexandra Fiallos will emotionally provoke you with their inaugural and invigorating production of James Fritz’s Start Swimming.

From the first moment the actors move onto the stage at The Broadwater, appearing grunting and growling from the darkness in a cacophony of guttural sounds, their facial features hidden behind blank, white masks, you’ll realize this is no ordinary play. Taking on the roles of unnamed characters, the actors ask, “What are you doing here?”

Meanwhile, as if engaging in some sort of Pavlovian test, an unseen entity uses buzzers and bells in an attempt to train and keep those wearing the masks in line. Respond correctly and they hear the pleasant ding of a bell. Respond wrongly and they hear the grating sound of a buzzer, or even worse, they hear the tortuous sound of what can only be an electrical shock, which sends them sprawling and falling to the ground, where they are left to spasm and twitch in horrific pain.

In a series of well choreographed and timed movements, this superb cast commands the stage in a wonderful combination of rhythm and language, as they defiantly question their unseen authority figure. Standing together, hand in hand, they face their fears with youthful exuberance, and shout, “I’m not going any where!” But, like sailors lost at sea during a tumultuous storm, threatened by the jagged rocks of relentless rules and regulations, the five with masks seem to have only one choice: to Start Swimming. The question: will they drown in the authoritarian waters or will they reach the shore to stand united in resistance and revolution? Whatever the results, this energetic and highly political play is a timely, entertaining, and refreshing addition to this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival.

Highly recommended

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